The New England Patriots had their first open-to-the-public practice and the hype train is on full throttle. Observers saw a few passes thrown and caught with no opposition in sight in voluntary OTAs and are absolutely giddy about it.
First, the hope is that the 2023 Patriots are indeed a step above last season’s non-playoff edition. Hope springs eternal for all Boston sports teams.
Lots of that Patriots hope centers around the hiring of an honest-to-goodness real offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien. It’s a good move, especially in light of the disaster that was the offensive coaching in 2022.
Bill Belichick seldom admits a mistake. In this case, he didn’t have to. It was as obvious as the nose on your face. But at least he brought in O’Brien and that’s something.
But as for the biggest problem, he did little about it.
New England Patriots needed and still need young offensive tackles
Arguably the most important offseason need for the New England Patriots was at offensive tackle. To say they were thin at the position would be a gross understatement.
The team addressed the situation (if you can call it that) by signing 34-year-old Riley Reiff ostensibly to start at right tackle replacing the totally ineffective Isaiah Wynn.
In addition, they signed or re-signed waiver-wire level players as purported depth. Neither Calvin Anderson nor Sean McDermott is the type of depth that was required for a very good team.
The team’s top two quarterbacks, Mac Jones, and Bailey Zappe are both limited in the “escapability” factor, getting out of trouble in the pocket under a strong pass rush.
That situation’s not going to change, unless and until undrafted rookie free agent dual-threat QB Malik Cunningham is given the reigns. Then everything changes, for the better.
That notwithstanding, the most glaring omission of the offseason for the New England Patriots was not bringing in a top addition or two at offensive tackle.
Patriots neglected this critical area
Signing Riley Reiff was an OK move by the New England Patriots. Yet, it wasn’t nearly enough. The suggested strategy was to either sign a top free-agent offensive tackle like Orlando Bloom Jr. or Mike McGlinchey and/or go heavy in the draft for OTs. They whiffed on both.
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Instead, in their seeming arrogance, they neither went big on a top free agent in his prime nor did they draft a OT at all. The last note is the most disparaging.
The New England Patriots have needed an influx of good young tackles for at least two seasons. After the quarterback, the offensive left tackle is the single most important player on the team, protecting the QBs blindside.
In addition, the offensive line is the single most important unit on the field after the quarterbacks. They make the whole thing work.
So, while digesting all the hype and hoopla about a few passes being thrown and a few catches being made, the reality remains.
The New England Patriots failed miserably to shore up the most important position (tackle) on the most important unit on the team and are relying on older, injury-prone players.
Maybe it will all work out, who knows? But taking a chance by neglecting that position is a prescription for disaster. We’ll see. That’s why they play the games.